Caol Ait

At roughly the age of 16, Patricus, as he referred to himself, who had been born into a wealthy and influential family in Roman Britain, was kidnapped by Irish Pirates.

Although he was the son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest, Patricus himself was not a believer. But after being kidnapped, he was enslaved and held captive for six years.  During those six years, he rediscovered the faith of his parents and converted to Christianity.  At the end of his captivity, he heard a voice telling him that would soon return home and that his ship was ready.  He acted – he ran away from his master, travelled to the first port he could find, and was able to gain passage on the ship.  After six long years of slavery and a spiritual rebirth, Patricus returned home to Britain.

Once home, he continued to study Christianity, eventually feeling called to full-time ministry.  After completing his training, Patricus felt God’s call to return to Ireland to minister to the very people who had enslaved him.

And the rest, as they say, is history.  (Of course, the whole story is history – approximately 1500 years old!)  Patricus, or Padraig, in Irish, had an incredible ministry in Ireland, and eventually came to be recognized by the Catholic Church as St. Patrick.

Old-Celtic-ChurchAn important part of St. Patrick’s ministry to the Irish was his wisdom in bridging gaps between Christianity and Druidic folk practices of the Irish people.

One of the ideas to come out of his “bridging” was the idea of Caol Ait (pronounced “kweel awtch”).  Caol Ait is a Gaelic term that means “thin places.”  The concept is that there are certain places in this world where the barrier between this physical world and the spiritual world are thin – in other words, places where the supernatural is more easily accessible.

Originally, the concept was one of pagan spirituality – thin places were considered to be places where the dead, and angels and demons, something Other than this world, is easier to access.  But Christianity has come to understand thin places as places that are holy – places where the invisible, transcendent Kingdom of God – the supernatural – is somehow closer and easier to access.

The truth is that God is Omnipresent – He is everywhere.  But He also manifests His Presence more tangibly at some times and places (think of Jacob’s encounter at Bethel; Moses on Mt. Hermon; the disciples at Pentecost; times and places where Jesus ministered when “the power of the Lord was present to heal.”  Consider the Lord’s Supper, where somehow, the bread and cup represent the body and blood of Jesus – a tangible expression of His Presence.  Consider the gathering of the Church – the body of Christ on earth.

And consider worship, which as we looked at on Wednesday, draws heaven’s presence.

Worship is you and me together praising God for Who He is, for what He does – and in doing so, we create a “thin place” – a place where heaven touches earth.

My dream for our fellowship is that together, we would create multiple thin places in our region – in our Sunday gatherings, in our Life Groups, in our own homes, in our own lives, in our workplaces.  Thin places where those around us can easily access the Presence of God and encounter Jesus, the Living Way, Truth, and Life.

As you worship today; as you prepare for celebrating Palm Sunday this weekend – be mindful of Caol Ait.  Together, let’s live and love and serve and worship and by our choices, make thin places all around us where people can encounter Jesus.  And let’s continue on Sunday mornings to seek His face, to make space for Him to speak and to move and to minister and to heal.

Together, let’s seek His Presence.  Together, let’s create a thin place as we gather on Sunday morning.

(Note – I know that YESTERDAY was St. Patrick’s day.  However, last night, in our Worship Team Life Group, we had an important discussion about what God is currently doing in our services, and about making space for God.  We thought it was no coincidence that on St. Patrick’s day, God drew us into a discussion of thin places.  And so, even though I had already written my devotional for today, I decided to write this and share it with you.  I hope God uses it to speak to you this morning.)

Looking Forward to Palm Sunday

This coming Sunday will be Palm Sunday, a familiar celebration and story for most Christians.

Palm Sunday is the most visible, free, public expression of worship for Jesus that we find in the gospels.  It’s an incredible picture of sacrificial worship:

  • People laying down garments on the road for Jesus to ride over on a donkey – garments that were often family heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation;
  • People waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna” – publicly risking the wrath of the religious leaders by proclaiming their belief that Jesus was Messiah; and
  • People forming an impromptu parade and celebration, publicly risking the wrath of Roman authorities by proclaiming Jesus as a coming King.

What does Palm Sunday have to do with our current theme of Living Naturally Supernatural – of leaning into healing and miracles, of praying for people, taking risks for the Kingdom of God, and of learning to experience the supernatural Kingdom of God in our everyday lives?

Palm Sunday

Actually, quite a bit.  Because the truth is that worship is an integral part of experiencing the Kingdom.

God is Omnipresent – He is present everywhere.  But somehow, there are a few things that we find in Scripture that increase God’s Manifest Presence – that bring a greater sense or awareness of God’s Presence.  For example, Jesus promised that when just a few of us gather in His name, He is present in our midst.  When we share the Lord’s Supper, somehow, we are sharing the body and blood of Jesus, a special measure of His Presence.  When we are together with other believers, we are somehow manifesting the Body of Christ in this world.

And when we worship, God shows up in unique ways.

I’m not completely sure how all this works.  I just know that God inhabits the praises of His people, according to Psalm 22:3; the very atmosphere of heaven, where God dwells, is praise (see Revelation 4 & 5); that Elisha the prophet was able to experience God’s anointing to prophesy in one instance because of worship music (2 Kings 3:15); and that King Saul experienced relief from demonic oppression by having David worship in his presence (1 Samuel 16:15-24).

So this week, as we prepare our hearts for Palm Sunday, and as we continue to think about the Lord’s power and His willingness to heal, we’re going to focus our readings on the story of Palm Sunday, and then end the week with a story from the life of Paul where worship provided a breakthrough moment for him and for those around him.  Here is our reading list for the week:

This week’s readings:

  • Monday – Matthew 21:1-11
  • Tuesday – Mark 11:1-11
  • Wednesday – Luke 19:28-44
  • Thursday – John 12:12-19
  • Friday – Acts 16:16-34

As you read this week, I’d like to suggest that each day, you begin by spending 5 minutes worshiping God for some specific things that He has done in your life; then read the passage; and finally, end by worshiping God for what He has taught you or revealed to you about Himself in each passage.  On Palm Sunday, we’ll come together and celebrate, and examine in greater depth the role that worship plays in healing, strength, and deliverance in our lives.

May the Lord continue to transform us as we seek Him and as we honor Him with our praises!

The Problem With Suffering

One of the paradoxes of the Kingdom that is difficult to understand and to live with is the fact that:

  • On the one hand, the Lord is our Healer and Provider, Who is able and willing to to heal and provide, Who promises us divine life and health and rewards not only in the age to come but also in this age, and Who is good and gives good gifts;
  • But on the other hand, we have been promised that we will face trials and tribulations in this world, we know that not everyone gets healed, we experience loss and need, we struggle with problems in this life, and we know that some of God’s choice servants – Paul, for example, in our reading today, David as a young man and later as a father of a rebellious young man, and even Jesus Himself – suffered terribly in this life.

Why?  How do we even reconcile those two divergent ideas in our minds?  How can God be good and omnipotent, and yet allow His people to suffer?

The truth is that theologians and philosophers and men and women who are far wiser than I am have struggled with the same question for millennia – have written volumes filled with their opinions and thoughts and discoveries.  So I guess if I’m going to try to answer the issue well, I need to write a book, and not a blog.  But that’s not going to happen today.  The point of this is to give you – and me – something to consider as we go through our day.

So let me point us back to Jesus.

There’s an interesting passage about Jesus and His suffering and His relationship to the Father, found in Hebrews 5:7-9 (NIV):

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…

Let me summarize:

  • While living on earth, Jesus prayed to His Father, the One who could save Him from death;
  • Jesus’ prayers to His Father were heard;
  • Even though Jesus’ prayers were heard, He still suffered and died; and
  • His Father brought great good out of Jesus’ suffering and death both for Jesus (who obeyed) and for all who obey Him.

Jesus-on-Cross

In Jesus’ life and example, then, we see some pretty important truths about our Father, our prayers, and our suffering.

  • For one thing, it becomes obvious that God hears and answers prayer, even though it doesn’t always look like what we request.  Jesus asked, and God answered.  God DID save Jesus from death; but He didn’t save Jesus from experiencing death.  Instead, He allowed Jesus to experience death so that we could live; and then He gave Jesus complete victory over death, thereby saving Jesus from death and defeating death by providing eternal salvation through Jesus.
  • Another thing that becomes obvious here is that while God doesn’t cause the suffering, He redeems it for both the one experiencing it and for others.  He can do that for each one of us.  Jesus, who was already reverently submissive to His Father, learned further obedience from the cross.  God took what was intended for evil and brought a greater good out of it.  During the Passion, Jesus suffered greatly; but when the Passion had ended, Jesus was victorious, His suffering had ended, and both He and those who obey Him would experience greater blessing.
  • Finally, this reminds us that while God wants us to be happy, healthy, joyful, blessed, provided for (He is a good Father, after all), we also must remember that He sees the greater picture.  He wants us not just to be happy in the moment, but in eternity.  And so, just like father who won’t allow a toddler to have everything that they want or think they need, our Heavenly Father, who sees everything and knows everything, is willing to allow us to navigate difficult things and to suffer for a season in this life so that we will be better equipped for the next life, and so that we can (as Jesus did) be a blessing for others through what we endure.

So both sides of the paradox are true – God loves us, provides for us, heals us, and promises blessings; and in this world, we will have trials and problems and will suffer.  But that paradox doesn’t change the fact that God is a good and loving Father.

What do we do with that?  What can we do with that?

I’m learning this – in the good times and in the bad, in the blessings and in our sufferings – look to Jesus, trust our Father, and receive comfort from the Holy Spirit.

What do you think?

Life Happens

Last week, I knew that I was going to be out of town overnight on Thursday, and I wasn’t sure what time I would be home (and have wifi) on Friday.  So I sent out an email to my distribution list to let everyone know that my blog would be late on Friday.

And Friday came and went, and I didn’t get my blog written.  I thought late that afternoon, “no problem.  I’ll just do it tomorrow morning.”

And Saturday came and went, and I didn’t get my blog written.

Life happened.

Life-is-What-happens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mean, I’ve got some pretty good excuses – reasons – whatever you want to call them.  But the bottom line is that what I wanted to have happen and what I planned to have happen didn’t happen.

Life happens to all of us.  It frequently interrupts our plans for life.

It happens when it comes to healing, too.

All the theology is there:

  • God identifies Himself as “The Lord Who Heals” (Exodus 15:26) – it’s part of His character.
  • Jesus paid the price for our healing at the cross – at the same time that He paid the price for our sins.  The issue of whether or not it is God’s will to heal was settled once and for all at the cross (Isaiah 53:1-10; Matthew 8:16-17; and 1 Peter 2:24).
  • Jesus Himself testified, when asked if He was willing to heal, said “I am willing” – (Matthew 8:3, and repeated in Mark and Luke as well).
  • Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
  • Jesus never turned away a single person who came to Him for healing.  He did not heal every sick person in Israel, but He never said “no” to a single person who asked.

But the problem is, that even though the theology is there, not everyone we pray for gets healed.

There’s the tension – it is absolutely God’s will to heal; God is absolutely able to heal; but not everyone is healed.

And I don’t know why.

Neither do you.

Oh, we can come up with lots of reasons – the Kingdom is now and not yet, and has not fully come yet; the world still lies under the sway of the wicked one, and so God’s will isn’t always done (that’s why Jesus taught us to pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done); it wasn’t the right time; etc., etc., etc.

The truth is that we don’t know all the answers or all the reasons.  And we won’t until we get to heaven.

Life happens.  And we don’t always understand why.

This week, we’re going to walk through that tension.  We’re going to look at the truths that:

  • God is good;
  • God loves each one of us;
  • But there is suffering in this world; and
  • God can redeem our suffering.

So if you’re up for it, we’re going to dive into it.

Let’s begin with a prayer:

Lord, reveal Your goodness to me; and reveal Your truth to me.  Help me to trust Your heart for what I am unable to understand.  May Your kingdom come; and may Your will be done.  Amen.

Here is our reading list for this week:

  • Monday – Isaiah 53:1-10 (a repeat from last week; a reminder of the price Jesus paid for our healing.)
  • Tuesday – Philippians 2:25-30
  • Wednesday – 2 Corinthians 11:16-33
  • Thursday – 2 Corinthians 12:6-10
  • Friday – Revelation 21:1-5, Revelation 22:1-5

Super Tuesday and The Issue of Healing

Unless you live (1) under a rock, (2) somewhere in the Judean wilderness, (3) in someplace where you can’t get the news, cell service, or wifi (in which case you wouldn’t be reading this!), then  you know that yesterday was “Super Tuesday” – a huge day in primary voting in preparation for the Presidential election in November.

Super Tuesday, other primaries, even the election itself are a reminder to us as American citizens that we have a voice in our country’s direction and even destiny – a voice that millions of people down through history never had the opportunity to have.  And it’s a reminder to many of us that the freedom to vote has been paid for by the blood, sweat, and tears of men of women who have sacrificed even to the death so that we can live in freedom.

You may not think in these terms, but the truth is that our relationship with God, we also have a voice.  We may not literally cast a ballot and vote, but our actions and our choices and our responses to God have a powerful impact on what we experience – or don’t experience – of God’s mercy and love.

Today’s passage, found in Luke 4:14-44, is fairly long, so I won’t reprint it here.  Please take a moment to either click on the link here, or to open your Bible and read the passage.  I know it’s a little longer than what we usually consider, but there’s a lot going on there.

So here’s a quick summary – Jesus is walking in the power of the Spirit, teaching and doing miracles and drawing crowds.  He returns to His hometown of Nazareth, reads the Sabbath Scripture from Isaiah, and publicly points out that He was the fulfillment of this.  According to Matthew 13’s account of this incident, they “took offense” at Him.  (Interesting, isn’t it – at first they were amazed at His teachings and His wisdom; then as they talked about the fact that they had watched Him grew up, knew His family, etc., they let the wonder be stolen away and took offense at His claims.)  They became furious and ran Him out of town.  Then He travelled to Capernaum, where His teachings were well-received.  But in Capernaum, they didn’t take offense at Him.  He cast out demons, healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, and then the whole town brought their sick and demonized family members and friends, and He healed the sick and cast out the demons.

IS438-4E-21

A portion of present-day Nazareth

My point is that Jesus did the exact same thing in two places – Nazareth, and Capernaum.  In Nazareth, they let their amazement become judgment and offense, and they ran Him out of town.  In Capernaum, their amazement led them to seek more from Him.

We have the incredible power of making choices.  God has given us this freedom, and we exercise it every day.  It’s pretty obvious to us as Christians that God has given us the choice to believe in Jesus or not (John 3:16 reminds us that salvation is for “whoever believes in Him…”)  But we often forget that we can also choose how much – or how little – of God’s blessings we experience.

Let me explain.

Healing is a wonderful thing and a frightening thing.  Everyone wants to be healed when they’re sick; everyone who has a loved one who is suffering wants them to be healed.  But the reality is this:

(1) Healing can look really strange and can be offensive.  Jesus did some bizarre things when He healed people – spitting in the dirt to make mud; spitting in a blind man’s eyes; casting out demons; telling cripples to walk; touching lepers.  And healing can look strange today – sometimes when the Holy Spirit is working, people do strange things like fall over or jerk around; it’s even more strange when bones grow or move.

(2) Healing can become something that we’re either afraid to pursue, or like the Nazarenes, become offended at and avoid.  This brings us back to probably the most difficult issue with healing – not everyone is healed.  There are people reading this today who either are suffering, or have loved ones who are suffering or dying, and the thought of healing fills you both with hope and with despair.  (“What if they aren’t healed?  Why are they dying?  Why hasn’t God healed them?  Why did that person get healed and not me?”)  All of those are valid questions.  The problem is that when we let our questions lead us into doubt, fear, or even anger, we can become offended at God and choose (sometimes without even realizing it) to “opt out” of healing.  In other words, we give up.  We stop asking for prayer, stop praying for healing, become offended at God as the Nazarenes were offended at Jesus, and even become angry when someone brings up the subject of healing.

Here’s the thing:  when we take offense, we end up choosing to “run Jesus out of town.”  We stop seeking Him; we stop praying for healing and talking about healing.  We stop looking for what He’s doing.  We stop being grateful for what we do have, and we end up focusing only on what we do not have.

God is the Healer.  It’s one of His names.  And Jesus paid the price not only for our sins to be forgiven, but for our sicknesses to be healed.  So when we choose offense and we choose to not pursue Jesus and pursue healing, we are choosing to forfeit part of what Jesus paid for on the cross.

I understand the frustration of not experiencing healing.  I understand the pain and sorrow of watching someone you love suffer.  I understand the pain of trying to reconcile God’s love with someone not being healed.

But here’s what I know – if Jesus paid the price for it, then it’s worth us contending for it.  It’s worth fighting for.  It’s worth learning more about healing, it’s worth pursuing Jesus more, it’s worth more prayer and fasting.  It’s worth “voting” – choosing – that no matter what my experience is telling me right now, I’m going to keep pushing and contending and fighting for what God has promised – healing.  And it’s worth loving and caring for those who haven’t yet experienced healing.

Because God is good.  Always.  And I want to choose to focus on His goodness.  I don’t want to be like the Nazarenes.  I don’t want to choose to take offense, and in so doing, push Jesus away.

I want more of Him.  I need more of Him.

So I will choose Him.

How about you?

Faith and Healing

Most people who know anything at all about healing in the Bible associate faith with healing in some way or another.  That idea has even been ingrained into our culture – most of us have heard of “faith healers” or “faith healing” or some other variant on the same idea.

The truth is that faith DOES play an important role in healing.  There were times that Jesus was amazed at peoples’ faith and healed in response to their faith.  There were also times that Jesus was amazed at the lack of faith that people had.  In fact, in His own hometown of Nazareth, Jesus either could not or would not do many miracles because of their lack of faith, depending on which translation you read.  (You can read about it in Matthew 13:53-58 or Mark 6:1-6 if you’d like.)  In the story of the paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof to Jesus, we are told that Jesus forgave the man’s sins and healed him when he saw “their” faith – the faith of the man’s friends.

Now, of course, God is all-powerful.  He doesn’t need our faith in order to heal anyone.

He doesn’t even need us to pray in order to heal anyone.

But since He’s committed to growing us and sanctifying us, in many cases God has chosen to partner with us.  And although He’s God and can do what He wants, He sometimes waits for us to show faith.  Or to pray.

So faith is pretty important.  In fact, Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”

Which is why we’re going to direct our attention to the issue of faith this week.

Last week, we focused on God as our Father and His willingness to heal.  This week, as we continue to consider healing, our focus will shift to Faith.

But one warning before we dive in – although faith is important, it’s not an end in itself.

Faith isn’t the issue.  In fact, healing isn’t really the issue.

The issue is Jesus.

He’s the One we’re pursuing.  He’s the One we want to be like.  He’s the One who is our model.

The only reason we’re talking about healing and trying to learn about it is that it is something that Jesus did fairly regularly, and that He told us to do.

And the only reason faith is important is that us brings us closer to Him.

So as we read and think about faith this week, as we consider passages that build our faith in Jesus as our Healer, as we join with the disciples in praying “Lord, increase our faith” remember that while faith is important, it’s only important in that it brings us closer to Jesus.

This Week’s Readings:

  • Monday – Matthew 9:1-8
  • Tuesday – Matthew 15:21-28
  • Wednesday – Luke 4:14-44
  • Thursday – Luke 17:11-19
  • Friday – Isaiah 53:1-8

Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes from hearing the word of God.  As we read and hear what God says to us this week, may our faith in His Son Jesus increase.

He’s A Good, Good Father

That’s the title of a great song by Chris Tomlin.  It’s also an accurate theological statement.

God is many things – Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Faithful, Holy, Righteous, Just.  That’s a mini-list that just skims the surface.

He’s also good.

And for some reason, when we talk about that quality of His character, it tends to anger some people.

Some people are much happier with an angry, righteous judge than they are with a compassionate, forgiving Father.

That’s one of the reasons the Pharisees hated Jesus so much – He violated their understanding of God.

He hung out with sinners.

He forgave people.

And He often healed indiscriminately.

The purpose of this post is not to go into a long theological dissertation on God’s character, but to focus in on that one specific quality of Goodness as it relates to healing.  But let me just note this before we dive in to that – God is absolutely righteous, just, and holy, and He will one day judge sin completely and finally.  But in the meantime, we live in the time of God’s favor – God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus at the cross.  So we can unashamedly proclaim the message that God is good, that He loves, and that He gives good gifts.

Including healing.

Let’s look at our readings from yesterday and today (Matthew 8:5-17):

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.  “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” 

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.  I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.”  And his servant was healed at that moment. 

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:  “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

So what do these incidents show us about God’s goodness and His heart of compassion?

A lot, actually.

To begin with, you have Jesus healing the servant of a Roman centurion – a slave.

Jesus had been sent to “the lost sheep of Israel” – His own words – and yet, He takes the time and effort to speak with a centurion and then, amazed at the man’s faith and understanding of authority, He heals the man’s servant.  He does the miraculous for a Gentile – and one who is part of the armed occupation of Israel.  Politically, an enemy.

One other thought on this healing – Jesus healed a slave.  Granted, the man was “paralyzed and suffering terribly.”  But still, a slave.  Maybe Jesus should have lectured the centurion on the evils of slavery and told him to set the man free?  I don’t know.  But I know this – Jesus responded to a Gentile’s faith, an occupier’s request, and healed the man’s slave.  In doing so, He relieved the slave’s suffering.

Then you have the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law.  She had a fever.  There’s no mention that anyone asked Jesus to heal her.  Perhaps everyone simply expected that He would, since He had healed others, and this woman was related to Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers.  We don’t know for sure.  But what we do know is this – really, Jesus had no obligation to heal her – or anyone else, for that matter – except His own compassion.

His expression of His Father’s heart.

Finally, we’re told that when evening came, Jesus set free many who were demonized.  And then this:

He healed all the sick.

We read that about Jesus and don’t give it much thought.  But pause for a moment and think about it now.

What would it look like if Jesus walked into downtown Ridgway and healed ALL the sick – every single person who had anything – from colds, to allergies, to cancer, to degenerative diseases, to emphysema, to high blood pressure, to hypertension, to…well, everything.

Here’s the thing about healing “all the sick” – when we talk about “all” we talk about EVERYONE.

Including “sinners.”

Including people whose sicknesses are their own faults.

I’m not saying all sickness is caused by personal sin.

But here’s a truth – sometimes, we contribute to our own sickness.

We eat poorly.

We don’t exercise.

We don’t get enough rest.

We don’t take care of our bodies.

And stuff starts to break down over time.

But Jesus healed “all the sick.”

That includes everyone who suffered from preventable things.

It also includes people who had done – or might in the future, do – illegal things.

Don’t you think that, in that town, there were people sick who were thieves?  Zealots?  Cheats?

Perhaps there was a murderer who had covered up their crime.

Perhaps someone who was extorting a neighbor.

I don’t know.  And I’m not excusing any of those things, nor encouraging them.

All I’m saying is this – Jesus had enough compassion that He healed all of them.

He didn’t have to.

But He did.

And why did He do that?

Because His Father told Him to.

Oh, we’re not told that specifically.  But we know from John 5:19, for example, that Jesus only did what His Father told Him to do – what He “saw” in His Spirit that His Father wanted Him to do.

The point is this – when we pray for the sick, we know God is willing.  We saw that in our readings on Monday through Wednesday.  We also know that God is gracious and compassionate – we see that in yesterday’s and today’s readings.

So don’t be afraid to pray for the sick.  Don’t struggle with thoughts like “is this God’s will?”

The Father is perfectly capable of revealing how we should pray, if we are listening.

But we don’t need to wonder if God is good, or if He is compassionate, or if He will heal people who maybe don’t deserve it.

None of us deserve it.

None of the people in that village deserved it.  But Jesus healed them all.

Because He did what His Father told Him to do.

And because His Father – our Father – is good.

He Is Willing

One of the struggles that comes with moving into healing ministry of any kind is the fact that in this world right now, not everyone we pray for gets healed every time.    This causes problems for us on multiple levels:

  • It can create pain for people who aren’t healed, or even pain for those who are close to people who aren’t healed.
  • It can create a place in our lives for us to become disappointed with God or discouraged with our circumstances.
  • It can lead to doubt and disbelief.
  • It can can cause us to fear failure and disappointment, and avoid taking courageous risks.
  • Any of the above can lead us eventually into anger and bitterness towards God, if we dwell on them and focus on what God hasn’t done instead of focusing on what God has done for us.

One of the ways that we can deal with all of this is to ground ourselves in the truth we find in God’s word.  There is much in God’s Word on the subject of healing, from specific statements and truths to a revelation of God’s identity as “The Lord Who Heals”, to the compassion that Jesus displayed and the many healings that He performed, and even the numerous healings we find in the book of Acts.

As we begin this week, I want to draw your attention to one particular incident of healing in Jesus’ life:

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.  A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.  Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”  Matthew 8:1-4 (NIV)

(Note – if you follow the reading schedule for this week at the end of this post, you’ll read Mark’s account of this story on Tuesday, and Luke’s account on Wednesday.)

This seems so similar to so many of the healings that Jesus did throughout His lifetime.  Encountered with a leper, someone that nobody wanted to have anything to do with, Jesus responds by reaching out, showing compassion, and healing him

There’s one really important thing, though, that sticks out in this story.

The leper says to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

And Jesus responds, “I am willing.”

If you’ve ever struggled with the whole “is it God’s will to heal” issue – there’s your answer.

Jesus – God in human flesh – the exact representation of the Father, the image of the invisible God, the One in Whom all the fullness of God dwells – the Word made flesh – THAT Jesus, when asked if He was willing to heal, responded with “I am willing.”

When you are confronted with illness in your life – remember, God is willing.

When you are confronted with illness in a family member or close friend – remember, God is willing.

When people try to tell you “it may not be God’s will to heal you…” – remember, God is willing.

When you feel discouraged and ready to give up hope, when your family and friends feel the same, when medical science offers no hope and you wonder if God even sees or God even cares – remember, God is willing.

The fact that He is willing doesn’t answer all the questions, all the doubts.  It doesn’t answer the “why not this time” that has been asked, cried out, countless times.

But it’s an important truth.

God is willing.

He is always good; He always loves; He is always willing.

Remember that the next time you pray for a sick person – God is willing.

Let that thought build hope and faith within you.

Let that thought stir your mind over the next few days.

God is willing!

NOTE:

This week, we’ll begin our experiment with a new format – a list of 5 week-day Scripture readings on our subject for the following Sunday, and 3 devotional – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  (I would appreciate any feedback on how you feel about the format.)  Here is the reading list for this week:

This Week’s Readings:

  • Monday – Matthew 8:1-4
  • Tuesday – Mark 1:39-45
  • Wednesday – Luke 5:12-16
  • Thursday – Matthew 8:5-13
  • Friday – Matthew 8:14-17

What’s In A Name?

Lou Bierbauer was a pretty decent second baseman.  He began his minor league career in his hometown of Erie, PA as a catcher.  He was picked up by a Canadian minor league team and quickly established a reputation as a solid player with great potential.  Scouts brought his name to the attention of the A’s, who invited him to spring training, looking for their catcher of the future.  But circumstances led to a move to second base, where he proved himself the best in their system.  He was promoted to the A’s and became their regular second baseman.  He did well with the A’s and was considered a desirable acquisition for many teams, but the A’s weren’t interested in letting their talented second baseman go.

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Lou Bierbauer – Philadelphia Athletics

But a clerical error led to Lou Bierbauer’s becoming a free agent.  The Pittsburgh Alleghenys jumped on the opportunity to claim him as a player.  The Philadelphia A’s owners were furious, and accused the Alleghenys’ management of “piratical practices.”

The Alleghenys’ owners were never found guilty of any wrongdoing in their actions.  However, they decided to embrace and make light of the A’s accusations.

And so, in 1891, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys baseball club were renamed the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Now you know!

A name can have incredible significance.  Biblically, that is especially true.  In Jewish culture, to name someone was to prophesy something about their lives.  To reveal a name was to reveal something of yourself, of your character.

That’s especially true of God.  Wherever a name of God is revealed in Scripture, a new revelation of His character occurs.  Think of some of the names of God you may know, and what they say about Him:  The Lord, The Lord our Shepherd, The God Who Sees, Savior, the Most High God, Sovereign Lord, King of Kings, King of Glory, Jesus.

Here’s the story of God revealing one of His names:

Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water.  When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).  Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded.  So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.

It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him.  He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”  Exodus 15:22-26 (NIV)

“The Lord Who Heals You.”

As we move into the weekend and as we begin our new series on being Naturally Supernatural, I’d like to submit this idea for your consideration:

Healing isn’t just something that God sometimes does.  Healing is part of God’s very character.  Healing is part of God’s identity – He is God, the Healer.

Healing isn’t something God does – it’s part of His nature.  It’s Who He Is – the Healer.

We’ll talk about that on Sunday.

But in the meantime, why not spend some time talking with Him about it?

Perhaps a simple conversation like this:  “Lord, what does it mean that you are my Healer?  How can I know you in a greater way as my Healer? What would you like to teach me about yourself as Healer?”  And then journal what God is saying to you.

What’s in a name?  Some pretty powerful truths.

Just ask Lou Beierbauer.